Kidney stones form inside the kidneys or other parts of the urinary tract. They are made form a crystal-like substance. There are different types of kidney stones.
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The cause will vary with the type of stone. Calcium oxalate or phosphorus stones may form if there are:
Struvite stones may form with a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Uric acid stones are caused by acid in the urine. They may also be caused by gout or chemotherapy.
Cystine stones are caused by a rare genetic disorder. It causes a buildup of cystine which leads to stones.
Kidney stones are more common in men under 50 years old or anyone with:
Calcium oxalate or phosphorus stones are more common in those with:
Struvite stones are more common in women. It is more common in those with past UTIs.
Uric acid stones are more common in those with:
Most kidney stones will not cause symptoms. Other stones may cause:
You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Urine may be tested to look for infection or blood. The doctor may suspect a stone based on your symptoms. Images of the urinary tract will show if a stone is present. Tests may include:
Blood tests may also be done to look for a cause.
The stones may pass in urine without problems. Drinking water can also help to flush small stones. Pain medicine may be needed.
Surgery may be needed if:
Types of surgery include:
A stent may be placed for a short time. The stent will help to keep the passage open to allow the stone to pass. It will help if there is too much swelling in the path that the stone has to pass through.
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) passes a handheld device over the skin above the stone. It sends small shock waves into the body. The waves break up large stones. The smaller pieces should be able to pass through the urine.
Once you have had a kidney stone, you are more likely to have another. To help reduce the chance of another kidney stone:
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Kidney Foundation
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Kidney stones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/kidney-stones. Accessed March 8, 2018.
Kidney stones. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at:
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Updated March 8, 2018.
Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114904/Nephrolithiasis . Updated February 5, 2018. Accessed March 8, 2018.
Urinary calculi. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/urinary-calculi/urinary-calculi. Updated July 2016. Accessed March 8, 2018.
1/4/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114904/Nephrolithiasis : Hollingsworth JM, Rogers MA, Kaufman SR, et al. Medical therapy to facilitate urinary stone passage: A meta-analysis. Lancet. 2006;368(9542):1171-1179.
1/4/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114904/Nephrolithiasis : Mora B, Giorni E, Dobrovits M, et al. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation: an effective treatment for pain caused by renal colic in emergency care. J Urol. 2006;175(5):1737-1741.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 1/16/2020